President Trump’s decision to ring the New Year by simultaneously demonizing Pakistan on Twitter has mostly backfired.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Pakistan’s defense minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said Pakistan is expanding its relationships with Russia and China, as relations with Washington deteriorate following the suspension over $2 billion in military aid to Islamabad.
Khan said is his government is undergoing a “regional recalibration of Pakistan’s foreign and security policy,” which implies Pakistani defense forces will be buying military weapons from Russia and China, rather than the United States.
“The fact that we have recalibrated our way towards better relations with Russia, deepening our relationship with China, is a response to what the Americans have been doing,” Khan stated.
Khan’s comments to the Financial Times came three weeks after Beijing announced it would be building its second foreign military base near the Gwadar Port, in the Pakistani province of Balochistan.
Plans call for the Jiwani base to be a joint naval and air facility for Chinese forces, located a short distance up the coast from the Chinese-built commercial port facility at Gwadar, Pakistan. Both Gwadar and Jiwani are part of Pakistan’s western Baluchistan province.
The large naval and air base will require the Pakistani government to relocate scores of residents living in the area. Plans call for their relocation to other areas of Jiwani or further inland in Baluchistan province.
The Chinese also asked the Pakistanis to undertake a major upgrade of Jiwani airport so the facility will be able to handle large Chinese military aircraft. Work on the airport improvements is expected to begin in July.
The naval base and airfield will occupy nearly the entire strategic peninsula.
Khan made it clear that Pakistan started the “recalibration” process three years ago when it began buying Russian helicopters. He indicates this is not a new trend, but the recent actions by President Trump have certainly spurred Pakistan to gravitate towards Russia and China for defense weapons.
Tensions between the US and Pakistan are the highest point ever in its 70 years of friendship. Khan stressed that Pakistan has many similar goals with Washington, but “lately the focus has been on areas of divergence”.
“We have already bought some Russian helicopters in the past three years,” he said. “This is what we call a regional recalibration of Pakistan’s foreign and security policy. It is because of the unfortunate choice the United States continues to make.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. said it would suspend the security assistance program to Pakistan worth $2 billion because the country has failed to combat terrorism within its borders.
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” President Donald Trump tweeted in earlier January.
Khan called Trump’s tweets “deeply offensive” and “counterproductive.”
Khan further added: “It is unfortunate that we are even discussing the numbers [the amount of aid] while Afghanistan slowly spirals out of the American and Afghan control.”
Khan notes that the backbone of the Pakistan air force is the General Dynamics’ F-16 Fighting Falcon of the U.S., which Khan said Islamabad has been received spare parts from Washington in two years.
“We are using our own ingenuity and using other sources to keep the fleet up in the air,” he said. “It has been very difficult.”
Considering Washington’s neglect in sending parts for Pakistan’s F-16s, Khan said he is open for dialogue with Russia on the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet.
About nine days after President Trump’s tweet, Khan declared that military and intelligence cooperation with the United States would be suspended.
Interestingly enough, both Beijing and Moscow issued strong statements in support of Pakistan after Trump unleashed fire and furry on Twitter.
“We must value Pakistan’s important role on the Afghanistan issue, and respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and reasonable security concerns,” China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over the telephone, according to Chinese media.
And lastly, this might be the bombshell, “The fact that we have recalibrated our way towards better relations with Russia, deepening our relationship with China, is a response to what the Americans have been doing. And they have their own reasons. They want to use India, in our view, to contain China,” Khan said.